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Portuguese Water Dogs: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Portuguese Water Dog temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Portuguese Water Dog dog breed

The AKC Standard calls him "an animal of spirited disposition, self-willed, brave, and very resistant to fatigue."

Emotionally the Portuguese Water Dog is stable and sensible. Physically he is lively and athletic, poised for any activity. He loves to play and needs vigorous exercise: long walks, occasional runs, and swimming whenever possible, for he is a master swimmer and diver.

Mental stimulation is just as important to this clever, thinking breed. Get him involved in the sport of agility or advanced obedience, and play lots of vigorous fetching games.

If you're not an outdoorsy person or if you just want an undemanding pet, this is not the breed for you.

When well socialized, his reaction to strangers varies from friendly to polite, but he should always remain steadfast and hold his ground. This observant breed makes a fine watchdog, but not a guardian.

Most Portuguese Water Dogs are accepting of other pets when raised with them.

PWDs are strong-minded, with an independent streak and a wicked sense of humor. Consistent leadership is a must.

A natural retriever, the Portuguese Water Dog is a very mouthy dog who will pick up everything in his path, chew up both edible and inedible objects, and try to gnaw on your hands. Provide a box filled with toys so he can satisfy his oral fixation by carrying something around in his mouth.

Youngsters are especially rambunctious, bore easily, and without enough attention and structured activity can excavate vast chasms in your yard.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium-sized, durable, athletic and agile
  • Sheds less than many other breeds, because shed hairs are trapped in the curly/wavy/tousled coat
  • Thrives on vigorous exercise and athletic activities.
  • Makes a fine watchdog, but is too polite to be a guardian
  • Is usually fine with other pets

A Portuguese Water Dog may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Vigorous exercise requirements
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Regular brushing and clipping
  • Mouthiness – carrying and chewing objects, mouthing your hands

A Portuguese Water Dog may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Portuguese Water Dog

If I was considering a Portuguese Water Dog, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Portuguese Water Dogs are not couch potatoes. Oh sure, they can be if you provide ample opportunities for them to vent their energy and do interesting things. If you can't meet their needs, they will become rambunctious and bored, which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing.

    It's tempting for owners to think that all misbehaviors can be solved by training. That's not true. Many misbehaviors are caused by the owner failing to provide smart, lively breeds with enough exercise and interesting things to do. So choose your breed wisely!

  2. Bounciness. Young Portuguese Water Dogs (up to about two years old) romp and jump with great vigor, and things can go flying, including small children and infirm people.
  3. Mind of their own. Portuguese Water Dogs are smart and capable of learning a great deal. But they do have an independent mind of their own. They can be manipulative and willful. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. To teach your Portuguese Water Dog to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. Read more about Portuguese Water Dog Training.
  4. Grooming. Portuguese Water Dogs have a tousled coat that requires regular brushing, and also a considerable amount of trimming and clipping.
  5. Shedding. Contrary to what some breeders claim, the Portuguese Water Dog is NOT a good choice for people with allergies. This breed is not hypoallergenic. He produces dander and he sheds. What happens is that most of his shed hairs get caught in his touseled coat rather than ending up on your floor. Thus, frequent brushing is essential not only for keeping the coat mat-free, but for removing shed hair.
  6. Health problems. Hip dysplasia, eye diseases, heart disease, skin conditions, immune system disorders – read more about Portuguese Water Dog Health.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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